Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

ANTITRUSSSSST! (Dear Hillary: In a well-received economics-themed speech in Toledo on Monday, you mentioned ANTITRUST LAW and ARBITRATION CLAUSES. Please, please do so also at Sunday’s debate.)

Clinton also said she would push for new steps to crack down on “forced arbitration” fine print that prevents workers and consumers from suing companies, proposals aimed at reducing market concentration and increasing competition, and curbing tax rules that gave corporations and the super-wealthy, like Trump, tax breaks not available to ordinary taxpayers.

After Trump’s tax-return leak, Clinton accuses him of protecting a ‘rigged system’, Abby Phillip and David Weigel, Washington Post, Oct. 3

Yes, Monday was economic-policy day for the Clinton campaign.  Tuesday was, well, not.  And while Tim Kaine is taking the brunt of the criticism for that, he is not the one who made that decision.  Clinton and her campaign gurus are.

Abby Phillip reported last night in a blog post titled “Clinton debate prep is focused on what happens once the debate is done”:

Sen. Tim Kaine may have awakened Wednesday to poor reviews after the first and only vice-presidential debate, but his acerbic performance in Farmville, Va., revealed that the Clinton campaign’s strategy for these debates extends far beyond the stage.

Armed with pre-planned Web videos, television ads and tweets, the campaign has used key debate moments this week and last as a cudgel against the Republican ticket, showing a level of discipline and organization largely absent from Donald Trump and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s campaign.

“Kaine had a very clear and simple plan for the debate: remind a national televised audience of all of the offensive things Trump has said and done in this campaign,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to President Obama. “The Clinton campaign was smart enough to know that who ‘wins’ or ‘loses’ the VP debate doesn’t move votes. Instead it’s an opportunity to communicate a message to a very large audience.”

“I don’t see a single thing that Pence did that moved the needle for Trump in any way,” he added.

Both Hillary Clinton and her running mate showed up on their respective debate nights well rehearsed. At moments, they seemed over-rehearsed. At one point Tuesday, Pence shot back at Kaine: “Did you work on that one a long time? Because that had a lot of really creative lines in it.”

But Clinton and Kaine had a larger goal in mind than winning the debates themselves: to create a series of compelling sound bites that they planned to weaponize for the reminder of the campaign. They logged scores of hours of preparation. They recited laundry lists of Trump’s faults. Their clear objective: to record him and his running mate embracing, denying or evading controversial positions that Trump has taken in recorded speeches.

That pattern is likely to continue Sunday at the next presidential debate, Democrats said.

“[Pence] claimed over and over and over again — he claimed, ‘He never said those things!’ ” exclaimed conservative radio host Glenn Beck on Wednesday. “We’re not living in the 1800s. We can go back to the clips on YouTube.”

And that’s exactly what the Clinton campaign did. Shortly after the debate Tuesday, the Clinton campaign tweeted out a glossy new site at hillaryclinton.com/literallytrump. The site highlighted dozens of moments “mentioned at the debate,” most of them by Kaine, with citations to back them up and the “share” button never too far away.

By Wednesday morning, a new video was blasted: a 90-second super-cut of Pence’s denials.

Here’s the problem with that strategy: It’s only half of what the Clinton strategy should be.

The other half?  Illustrating that on his fiscal, economic, and regulatory policy agenda—all of it intricately related—Trump and Pence are exactly the same.  It’s a Mercers/Kochs/Tea Party agenda.  Yet Kaine at the debate—at the orchestration of the Clinton campaign’s strategists—allowed Pence to get away with the more important of the Trump campaign’s two new lines.

The less-important line was the one that everyone knows is preposterous: that it is Clinton rather than Trump who is running a campaign based on insults.  Greg Sargent, linking to a Washington Post video clip of Trump’s rally in Nevada yesterday, writes this morning:

A new, self-effacing version of Donald Trump appeared on the campaign trail late yesterday. In Nevada, Trump said this:

“A vote for me is a vote for change, and common sense, and a strong military, and great veterans’ care, and Second Amendment rights, and good health care….But it’s also a vote directly for you. Because I am a reflection of you.

“You’re voting as people who believe in yourselves. You are voting to believe in your future. You are voting to believe in your great country. All together, we are going to make our country wealthy again….And we are going to make America great again.”

“This isn’t about me, it’s about you” is standard political boilerplate, of course. But in Trump’s case, it may signal a closing strategy.

The Post titled that video clip “Trump to supporters: ‘I am a reflection of you.”  And this time he wasn’t talking only about those who are in the basket of deplorables.

He also wasn’t talking about those who wouldn’t be assisted by the tax policy drafted for him at the Mercer-funded Heritage Foundation, nor to those who would be forced to make up some of the lost income and estate tax revenue in order to pay for the massive buildup in military defense and border security (among other things).  Although he, like Pence on Tuesday night, was claiming that is the “you” who he is talking about, and talking to.

I’ve written two or three posts here at AB in the last few months in which I’ve pleaded with Clinton to discuss antitrust law and also forced-arbitration clauses.  Antitrust law is the more important of the two, and truly implicates the very workings of the larger economy.  In a post several months ago, I recalled that it was a regular part of Bernie’s stump speech, and mentioned an article from back in the summer of 2015 in which the reporter sat not in the press section but instead amongst the crowd at a yugely enthusiastic rally in Iowa and reported that the young woman with long blond hair sitting next to him would rise from her seat and, cheerleader-like, punch the air to shout one or another subject line that Sanders was mentioning—and that one of those things was: ANTITRUSSSSST!!

But forced-arbitration clauses in consumer, employment, securities, mortgage and other loan, and various other types of contracts—as the Supreme Court, in a series of 5-4 opinions, has rewritten (er, “interpreted”) the Federal Arbitration Act to permit in breathtakingly sweeping form, also is important.

The two subjects, along with labor-law issues and campaign-finance law, get at the very heart of what so much of the public means when they say they want change: they want a major recalibration between the profoundly powerful and everyone else.  They want to regain some real power over the private and public institutions that have such a stranglehold on life in this country.

That’s what Bernie understood, and his policy proposals reflected that, and to the extent that they are incorporated into the Democratic Party platform, they still do. Trump understands this, too, and that’s why there has been that other basket—the one without the deplorables.

Trump began his campaign as both a racist and xenophobe and an economic populist.  But last October, in an attempt to fend off a threatened torrent of Koch spending to try to kill his campaign, he quietly switched to Paul-Ryan-on-steroids on fiscal and financial-industry-regulatory matters.  And when not long after that, after the Kochs made clear their continued hostility toward Trump’s candidacy, the hedge-fund-billionaire father-daughter duo Robert and Rebekah Mercer took up the slack.

And then some.

I had expected, naively, before Tuesday that Kaine would get this across at the debate, especially in the wake of the Trump 1995 tax return publication and its (momentarily, I guess) resulting attention to Trump’s tax plan.  And also because Pence is Paul Ryan with gray hair.

I had thought, although it was only wishful thinking, that Clinton and her campaign actually finally recognized that millennials, Rust Belt blue collar voters, and middle-class suburbanites all would be as repelled by Trump’s Heritage Foundation fiscal-and-regulatory-policy agenda.  And that, contrary to what Clinton clearly had believed throughout her campaign from its inception, middle class suburbanites, in large numbers—including many independents and moderate Republicans, like most of the genuinely progressive fiscal and regulatory agenda that Sanders had forced into the party platform.

But I was wrong. Clinton believes, apparently inalterably,  that moderate suburbanites, millennials and racial minorities care only about Trump’s racism, xenophobia, misogyny, vulgarity and such—and his obvious mental instability, which is why reportedly internal polling by both Trump’s and Clinton’s campaigns are showing an en masse movement toward Clinton among independents and moderate Republicans, and third-party-candidate-fan millennials in the last week—more so than the public polls are showing.

But Clinton could wrap this up and tie a bow on it—and significantly help Dem Senate and maybe even House candidates—if she talks about what she talked about on Monday in Toledo.

I also want to say this: For me, what mattered a lot about that speech was that she ventured away from the usual and discussed—mentioned and explained—two tremendously important aspects of the economic-power status quo in the current age: massive consolidation of, and massive control over the legal system by, large corporations, hugely increasing the power of mega-corporations over small and midsize businesses and individuals.

And a big part of what mattered to me is that Clinton trusted that her audience would understand what she was talking about, even though these things required some explanation.

Finally, I want to note that the Phillip and Weigel piece I quoted from above was the only report among the (I believe) three I read about Clinton’s Toledo rally that noted her mention of antitrust and forced-arbitration-clause law.  Neither the NYT report nor Politico did.

I’ve said a couple of times recently that in my opinion the Washington Post’s campaign coverage throughout the primaries and general election campaign has been far superior to any other that I’ve read.  I’ve mentioned John Wagner, who covered Bernie’s campaign and now helps cover Clinton’s, for its straight and thorough reporting on campaign events.  Jenna Johnson’s reporting and David Weigel’s as well have been terrific.  And then there is David Fahrentold’s Pulitzer-caliber investigative reports on the Trump Foundation.

As of right now I expect Clinton to win reasonably comfortably.  But she can win with a fairly clear mandate for the types of change that the Dem platform proposes, if she campaigns on them and—relatedly—on the specifics of Trump’s, and Ryan/Pence’s, actual fiscal and regulatory agenda.

As for Tim Kaine, my heart sort of goes out to him.  And the way that Clinton can make it up to him is not by claiming that he did great at the debate, but instead by pointing out this: Mike Pence built his name as a far-right but studiedly-smooth talk-radio host.  Tim Kaine built his career as a civil rights lawyer.

This matters.  And it favors Kaine, not Pence.

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Would this lengthy statement by Clinton about millennials, make millenials MORE, rather than LESS, likely to vote for her?

Here’s the article, by Yahoo News’ Michael Walsh, titled “#basementdwellers — The actual words and spin on Hillary Clinton’s remarks about Bernie Sanders supporters.”

Clinton should run the video clip on her campaign’s website.

And I say that as a virulent Bernie supporter who remains angry recalling some of Clinton’s public statements during the primary campaign—including some she made at debates with Bernie—and who laughs at Paul Krugman each time he claims that Clinton has run a decent campaign and has appeared appealing throughout her campaign, and (weirdly) that a good reason to vote for her is how poised she remained throughout that 11-hour Congressional Benghazi Committee hearing in defending herself when she had no choice but to be there and do so.

Whatever, Prof. Krugman.  You’re completely right about the outrageous mainstream-media obsession with Clinton’s emails, the appalling AP report in late August and other mainstream (e.g., the NYT’s) coverage of that, and the failure to give Trump’s business-related-and-pay-to–assure-the-friendship-of-a-state-AG scandals.  But, seriously, Clinton has run a really off-kilter, out-of-touch (literally as well as figuratively) campaign.  But it’s not at all too late to make up for lost time.

I’m most definitely absolutely completely and thoroughly with her now, as is Bernie.  And I wish she’d take my advice (including in this post, but, wayyy more important, in other recent ones) about how to nail this election down.

 

____

UPDATE: Hey!  Bernie’s back in the spotlight!  For HER!

Yayyyy.  (Luv ya, Bernie.)

Added 10/2 at 12:27 p.m.

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What Clinton and her surrogates need to get across to millennials, racial minorities and union members

Coming soon: President Barack Obama, who’s expected to campaign [in Florida] at least twice before Election Day. First Lady Michelle Obama — more popular than her husband — will likely visit Florida as well, in addition to the ad she cut for Clinton that’s currently airing on Florida radio.

“Hillary Clinton’s campaign is in panic mode. Full panic mode,” said Leslie Wimes, a South Florida-based president of the Democratic African-American Women Caucus.

“They have a big problem because they thought Obama and Michelle saying, ‘Hey, go vote for Hillary’ would do it. But it’s not enough,” Wimes said, explaining that too much of the black vote in Florida is anti-Trump, rather than pro-Clinton. “In the end, we don’t vote against somebody. We vote for somebody.”

Part of the problem Clinton faces is that Obama, the actual black president, is the toughest of acts to follow. Obama enjoyed support from 95 percent of Florida’s black voters in both 2012 and 2008, according to exit polls.

Clinton campaign in ‘panic mode’ over Florida black voters, Marc Caputo and Daniel Ducassi, Politico, yesterday

“In the end, we don’t vote against somebody. We vote for somebody.”  Sounds like a plan!  If your plan is to ensure that the Supreme Court remains in the hands of the rightwing Federalist Society for another two decades, and that the lower federal bench, which after three decades of Federalist Society control is no longer in that stranglehold.

Guess the “we” who, in the end, don’t vote against somebody but instead vote for somebody, are just fine with the Supreme Court’s killing of the Voting Rights Act; the Court’s killing of federal-court habeas corpus review of state-court and state-prosecutor actions wayyy beyond what the 1996 jurisdictional statute they purport to just be interpreting (they’ve actually rewritten it); the Court’s singlehanded creation of a legal doctrine called “qualified immunity” (by their own admission not based on any statute but instead solely on their preferred policy) that exempts all law enforcement people, including (especially) prosecutors (including those who falsify evidence and those who withhold clearly exculpatory evidence) from any civil lawsuit liability, like, ever.

And the possibility of the Supreme Court upholding new campaign-finance laws—federal and state. Including state judicial elections or appointments.  And state attorneys general and local DAs.

You think black lives matter, but you don’t care enough about who in the federal judicial branch is making policy that goes such a long way toward deciding whether or not black lives matter?  Or, you don’t know that it the judiciary—and particularly the federal judiciary—at least as much as Congress that determines the relevant policy, and that the person who determines the makeup of the Supreme court and he lower federal courts, and therefore determines how much latitude state court judges and state prosecutors and state and local police have, is either that person whom you won’t vote for because you’re not enthusiastic about her, or that the person whom you don’t want to just vote against?

Ditto for millennials in general.  Most of the African-Americans saying that are, best as I can tell, millennials, leading me to wonder where they were during the primaries, when African-Americans in the South effectively determined the outcome of the primary contest.  Was Sanders not someone they could vote for?  Apparently not, so I guess they just didn’t vote.  Which should, maybe, suggest to them that if there are things that matter to them that will be determined by whom the next president is, they should ditch their high-mindedness and vote for the one of the two candidates that they would rather see making those decisions who will be making those decisions (court appointments, for example).

But its by means just African-American millennials.  It’s millennials generally.  It’s just the in thing this year.  The fashion. Which is good, to a point.  But not beyond that.

I say: Heck, millennials, just tell reporters and pollsters whatever you want about how cool you are to vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, or to not vote (even for Senate and House, and state legislators).  It’s certainly the millennial in thing to support Johnson or Stein, or not vote.  And it will be unless and until President Trump, say, fulfills his promise to appoint a justice like Antonin Scalia to fill Scalia’s seat on the Court.  But if that’s not what you want to actually see, then vote.  For Clinton.

It’s one thing to threaten to cast a vanity vote, but quite another to actually cast one, ceding to others, without an iota of input, the actual decision about who will become president.

Care about consumer and employee protections (including the Supreme Court’s series of 5-4 opinions rewriting the Federal Arbitration Act in favor of … well, not consumers and employees), and finance-industry regulations?  Really?  But you’re fine with the prospect of President Trump and all those someones he’ll appoint?  Because you only vote for someone—the candidate herself or himself.  You won’t vote against someone.  Or, apparently, all those someones the candidate will appoint once in the White House.

Clinton, her husband, and her campaign do seem finally, and ever so belatedly, to have gotten the message you’ve sent through the polls.  But she doesn’t seem to fully know what to do about it.  Yes, it’s great that she’s finally campaigning on the Party platform—and even doing so with Bernie!  And her most potent surrogate besides Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, is becoming active after (what I’m guessing) was a period of about seven weeks when Clinton and her campaign didn’t want these two prominently campaigning for her.  Suburban moderate women would have been thrilled about what platform planks these two would have highlighted.  But, y’know, all those name Establishment Republicans whose endorsements she was trying for (successfully, for the most part) might not have happened.

And since this election cycle is nothing if not one in which to highlight support of name Establishment folks, that seemed to Clinton, her husband and her campaign as the route to the White House.  Even if everyone else was stupefied by it.

Well, almost everyone else.  But Clinton, her husband and her campaign really, really do finally understand this (even if Paul Krugman does not and still thinks Clinton’s failure to campaign intensely, or at all, on the Party platform for six weeks, and to not herself respond immediately and very publicly to the late-August Clinton Foundation pay-to-play meme).  Sort of, anyway; Clinton still won’t tell the public about the Mercers or the oil-and-gas billionaires who will in effect be making these appointments—nor, apparently, even wants Sanders and Warren to do so.

But this week there does seem to be real progress. Or at least it had seemed that way.  But today there is this, from Greg Sargent:

Clinton may have erred in calling “half” of Trump’s supporters “deplorables,” but there’s little question she wants this broader national argument. Of course, in some ways, Trump might also want this debate. He obviously sees expressing outrage about Clinton’s “deplorables” and “implicit bias” comments as a way to juice up his base by playing to white grievance.

But Trump also needs to improve his appeal among college educated whites, who are already convinced that Trump is either personally biased against minorities or is running a campaign designed to appeal to bigotry, which could be one reason his unfavorable numbers remain so high among those voters. And in this context, it’s worth appreciating that there’s a basic political imbalance underlying this debate: It energizes the base for both candidates, but it arguably could limit the broader appeal of only one of them.

As Democratic strategists have pointed out, by fully confronting Trump’s bigotry, and by talking about systemic racism as a continuing societal problem, Clinton may be able to engage core Dem voter groups in ways that tip the composition of the electorate in her direction on election day. It is always possible that engaging this debate might alienate some swing voters. But it seems more likely at this point that a continuing national focus on Trump’s racism could further alienate from him those college educated whites that Clinton hopes to win among, which would make her the first Democrat in over half a century to pull that off.

Either way, Clinton appears fully committed to this debate at this point, and most signs are that Democrats broadly see this orientation of the party as a short-term and long-term positive. So she probably won’t stop taking about it anytime soon.

Presumably this is because there are a few people hiding in caves with not even radio transmission who don’t know that this has been debated intensely for the last 16 months.  Or who want to hear still more debate about it. Maybe that’s the ticket.  Then again, maybe not.

It’s the court and agency appointments, stupid.*

Got that?  It’s the court and agency appointments, stupid.**

But … whatever.  As always, it’s only the Republicans who understand and campaign on this.  Or at least who campaign on this–even if they’re not the only candidates who understand this.

Progressives of all generations are tired of this.  Really.  We are.  Although by and large, it’s only millennials who plan to play with matches.

 

____

NOTE: *That line is intended as a takeoff on the (I guess no longer) famous line that Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign manager, James Carville, posted to his office wall to remind himself of what to focus on above all else during the campaign: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

The “stupid” being a reference to … himself. As in: Remember, James, you idiot. It’s the economy that should be the main focus of the candidate’s campaign, not the side stuff (like culture wars issues). That campaign was during a recession.

After reading the first comment in the Comments thread I realized that I needed to explain that rather than presume that this would be understood, as it would have been, say, even a decade ago. Oh, dear.

Added 9/29 at 5:07 p.m.

**I just added this link to the Wikipedia article about “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Lordy.

Added 9/29 at 5:27 p.m.

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Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel vs. Robert Mercer and Rebeka Mercer (i.e., the meaning of TRUE CHANGE)

In the wake of Hillary Clinton’s recent fundraising along the East and West coasts, the Republican National Committee has released a new web ad claiming the Democratic presidential nominee is out of touch with “everyday Americans.”

The 19-second video, titled “Hillary Clinton’s Liberal Elite Summer Tour,” begins with an image of an airplane bearing Clinton’s logo. A voiceover resembling an announcement from a flight attendant names some of the stops on Clinton’s schedule, including Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and Martha’s Vineyard.

“Please use caution in opening the overhead bins, as Hillary’s baggage may have shifted during flight,” the “flight attendant” says as the ad ends.

Clinton spent her weekend on Martha’s Vineyard and held a fundraiser in Nantucket. On Tuesday, Clinton is headlining a $33,400-per-guest event being hosted by Justin Timberlake and his wife, actress Jessica Biel.

“Hillary Clinton claims she’s running to be a champion for ‘everyday Americans,’ but her busy week of fundraisers with her friends in the wealthy liberal elite show who she’s really fighting for,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. “Rather than visit flood-ravaged Louisiana or end her more than 250-day streak without a press conference, she’s taking her private jet from coast to coast raking in piles of campaign cash to fund her status quo campaign.

“Donald Trump is the candidate of true change in this election, and he is leading a grassroots movement to put an end to business as usual in Washington and make a difference in the lives of all Americans.”

New RNC ad attacks Clinton’s fundraisers, Rebecca Morin, Politico, yesterday

Amid the widespread media focus last on the Trump campaign’s shakeup that ended Paul Manafort’s reign there (such as it was) and brought in Breitbart alum Steve Bannon as campaign CEO (interesting title, but whatever) and elevated Trump pollster Kellyann Conway to campaign manager, a critical aspect of this, though reported in-depth by the New York Times and a couple of other major news outlets, has, clearly, not made it mainstream: that Trump’s actual current puppeteers are the father-daughter duo of Robert Mercer and Rebeka Mercer.  And who they are.

So let me introduce them to y’all, by borrowing heavily from an in-depth article by Nicholas Confessore titled “How One Family’s Deep Pockets Helped Reshape Donald Trump’s Campaign,” published in last Friday’s New York Times:

Last week, as Donald J. Trump endured one of the most tumultuous stretches of his presidential campaign, a few longtime allies in New York conservative circles met for dinner and a drink. As the evening progressed, the conversation turned to an inevitable topic: What would it take to give Mr. Trump his best shot at winning?

A few days later, one of the guests, Stephen K. Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, would become Mr. Trump’s campaign chief in a sudden shake­up. But it was a guest without a formal role in the campaign, a conservative philanthropist named Rebekah Mercer, who has now become one of its most potent forces.

Mr. Bannon’s ascension on Wednesday — urged on Mr. Trump by Ms. Mercer, among others — shows how a cadre of strategists, “super PACs” and political organizations quietly nurtured by her family have emerged to play a pivotal role in Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.

Over more than half a decade, Ms. Mercer’s father, the New York investor Robert Mercer, has carved an idiosyncratic path through conservative politics, spending tens of millions of dollars to outflank his own party’s consultant class and unnerve its established powers. His fortune has financed think tanks and insurgent candidates, super PACs and media watchdogs, lobbying groups and grass­roots organizations.

Many of them are now connected, one way or another, to Mr. Trump’s presidential bid. Mr. Trump’s new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, is a veteran Republican pollster who previously oversaw a super PAC financed by the Mercers. Mr. Bannon oversaw Breitbart, an outlet that has often amplified Mr. Trump’s message and attacked his perceived enemies. Mr. Mercer reportedly invested $10 million in Breitbart several years ago, and most likely still has a stake: A company sharing an address with Renaissance Technologies, the hedge fund Mr. Mercer helps lead, remains an investor in Breitbart, according to corporate documents filed in Delaware.

Mr. Trump is also relying on Cambridge Analytica, a voter data firm backed by Mr. Mercer, whose staff members are working with Mr. Trump’s vendors to identify potential Trump supporters in the electorate, particularly among infrequent voters.

A Mercer-­backed super PAC supporting Mr. Trump is now being shepherded by David Bossie, a conservative activist whose own projects have been funded in part by the Mercers’ family foundation, according to tax documents.

Mr. Bannon has worked particularly closely with the family in recent years.

“I think they have complete confidence, and rightly so, in Steve Bannon’s decisions and what he brings to the table politically,” Mr. Bossie said. “He has been smart and successful in running these different political operations. And those things have come to the Mercers’ attention.”

The Mercers, who rarely grant interviews, declined through a spokesman to comment. Mr. Mercer, 70, a mathematician and competitive poker player who spent his early career at I.B.M., joined Renaissance in the 1990s and rose to become the co-­chief executive, earning hundreds of millions of dollars along the way.

Today, he and his wife, Diana, live on a sprawling estate on Long Island’s North Shore where, according to court records, he installed a $2.7 million model railroad set (and later sued the vendor for overcharging him).  [Italics added.]

Like many elite donors, the Mercers shun mainstream media attention — even while financing alternative outlets that provide content for conservative activists. That includes not just Breitbart, but also the self­described watchdog organization Media Research Center and the Government Accountability Institute, home to Peter Schweizer, the author of “Clinton Cash,” a book examining the Clinton family philanthropies. (Mr. Bannon co­founded the institute and Ms. Mercer, 42, has served on its board; she also co­produced a documentary based on the book and released last month, just before the Democratic National Convention.)

They have given to libertarian organizations, such as the Cato Institute, and political organizations like the Club for Growth, which spends millions of dollars each election cycle in Republican primaries, hoping to promote orthodox conservative policies on taxes and spending. The Mercers are also significant donors to the sprawling political network overseen by the political activists Charles G. and David H. Koch, which is also libertarian-­leaning.  [Italics added.]

But unlike the Koch brothers, who remained neutral in the Republican primary and have said their organizations will focus on congressional races this fall, the Mercers were deeply involved in the Republican nominating battle this year. And they have shown a taste for more bare-­knuckled and populist politics than most of Mr. Mercer’s fellow hedge fund magnates.

The family originally backed Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a more traditional conservative but one who, like Mr. Trump, is disliked by much of the party establishment. During the early phase of the campaign, Mr. Mercer donated $13 million to a super PAC supporting Mr. Cruz. In doing so, he broke with many peers in the elite donor world, who looked to candidates like Jeb Bush or Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

The Mercers maintained close control over the group’s purse strings, installing Ms. Conway to oversee the group and coordinate with several other pro-­Cruz groups, an unusual move for a super PAC. During the Republican primary, the group ran ads questioning Mr. Trump’s conservative credentials, hoping to outflank Mr. Trump.

But the Mercers moved to support Mr. Trump after he won the nomination. They were helped in part, according to a person who asked for anonymity to describe the family’s thinking, by Mr. Trump’s growing emphasis on traditional conservative ideas, such as tax cuts. [Italics added.]  And the family broke with Mr. Cruz in highly public fashion after his speech at the Republican convention, when the Texas senator refused to endorse Mr. Trump and instead suggested that Republicans should “vote your conscience” for candidates “up and down the ticket.”

In an extraordinary rebuke, the Mercers issued a rare public statement, calling themselves “profoundly disappointed” in Mr. Cruz. In late June, the Mercer­-financed super PAC quietly re­formed as Make America Number One, now a pro-­Trump entity. Mr. Bossie, a longtime conservative activist who has produced documentaries about the Clinton family and illegal immigration, is leading the group, which is likely to raise more money from the Mercers to pay for attacks on Hillary Clinton.

Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin contributed reporting.

Yeah, yeah, okay, I didn’t borrow heavily from the Confessore piece; I borrowed the whole thing.  But the italics are mine, so … fair use?  In return, I will say that Confessore’s reporting is, in my opinion, unfailingly awesome.

What matters here is, I would hope, obvious: Justin Timberlake, Jessica Biel, George Clooney, and the folks who attend their, and other Hollywood types’, fundraisers, for Clinton, for the DNC, for Senate and House candidates, for other down-ballot candidates, are donating to politicians whose platform—and in the instances of Dem incumbents running for reelection, their actual legislative votes—run counter to their financial interests.  Sometimes very significantly.

That likely also is true of many of those Martha’s Vineyard fundraiser hosts and attendees.

In any event, I’m not sure why the funds raised by the liberal elite in Hollywood and Martha’s Vineyard, in the service of reducing their own fortunes, is more pernicious than the tens upon tens of millions of dollars provided by two people transferring the money from a sprawling estate on Long Island’s North Shore that, according to court records, features an installed $2.7 million model railroad set, and from other homes owned by one or another of the two, in the service of propping up campaigns for president and Congress whose explicit tax, expenditures, and regulatory plans—not to mention quieter federal legislative proposals—would directly and dramatically increase their already-exorbitant wealth and enable the fully tax-free passage of that wealth from themselves to their heirs.

Heirs, here, being a legal term of art, but it does double duty here as in “heir to the [fill-in-the-blanks] fortune” of common parlance.

Although presumably Ms. Conway can explain it, since yesterday, according news reports, she said in a TV interview that she’s chomping at the bit to see Trump campaign on his tax plan, which, she said, lowers taxes for … the middle class!  Who are in the tax bracket that will save them hundreds of thousands of dollars each year under Trump’s income tax proposal and who will be relieved to know that their wealth in excess of $5 million (or whatever the current level is above which is subject to the estate tax) will pass to their heirs (both uses of the term here) tax-free.

And while Trump is campaigning in, say, Ohio and Pennsylvania on his tax plan, maybe he’ll discuss also who will have his ear when it comes time to fill such positions as National Labor Relations Board members, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Commerce, head of the Federal Communications—and Attorney General.  As well as chief of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.

To name only a handful of appointees that, y’know, maybe could matter to some of those Rust Belt blue-collar workers, former and present.

And then there is the matter of Trump’s promise, repeated time and again, to appoint Supreme Court justices who will ensure the continued viability of Citizens United issued, 5-4, in 2010.  And of Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, a bizarre 5-4 opinion fabricating a constitutional ground on which to strike down Arizona’s matching-campaign-funds statute that applied to elections for state office.  This issue is dead only if Trump wins and does as he’s promised: Nominate Supreme Court justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia.

Yesterday’s NYT Opinion section featured a lengthy piece by former Times Washington Bureau chief Hedrick Smith that made that clear.  Titled “Can the States Save American Democracy?”, Smith writes:

In the pushback against Citizens United, 17 states and more than 680 local governments have appealed to Congress for a constitutional amendment, either through a letter to Congress, referendums, legislative resolutions, city council votes or collective letters from state lawmakers.

In the most prominent case, California’s 18 million registered voters get to vote in November on whether to instruct their 55­ member congressional delegation to “use all of their constitutional authority” to overturn Citizens United. Washington State is holding a similar referendum. In 2014, a Democratic amendment proposal to allow regulation and limits on electoral spending won a 54­42 majority in the Senate, strictly along party lines, but fell short of the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster. Now bills calling for a 6­ to­ 1 match of public funds for small campaign donations up to $150, or requiring disclosure of funders for campaign ads, have wide Democratic support, but are blocked by Republican opposition.

Yet out in the country, even in some reliably red states, reform movements have sprouted. South Dakota is one, thanks to three petition drives. One seeks to make primaries nonpartisan and another calls for an independent redistricting commission. A third is for a ballot measure, similar to one in Washington State, that would create a $50 tax credit for each voter to donate to a political candidate; ban campaign contributions exceeding $100 from lobbyists and state contractors; and mandate that independent groups speedily disclose the top five contributors to political ads and electioneering communications made within 60 days of an election.

In April, Nebraska’s Republican-­dominated Legislature voted 29­15 to set up an independent redistricting commission. Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, vetoed the bill, but reformist legislators promise a revised proposal in the next session.

Everyone, of course, knows about Citizens United, but no one knows about that Arizona matching-funds opinion.  Nor does anyone know about the string of 5-4 Supreme Court opinions rewriting, for example, the Federal Arbitration Act to provide what the Act does not provide, and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), the statute that delineates key aspects of access to federal court, to provide the diametric contrary to what it actually says and had been accepted as saying since it was enacted in about 1970.

There are other critical rewritings of “codified” law—provisions of the Constitution and legislative enactments, including the very wording of the Constitution’s Eleventh Amendment—also regarding threshold access to federal court, as part of the Supreme Court’s makeover of American law in the vision of the Conservative Legal Movement.

To which Trump’s two funders/puppeteers aggressively subscribe.

And here’s what really matters: Trump himself will not win; that train has left the station and will not be returning.  And in recognition and acceptance of that, the RNC apparently plans to soon start trying to sell their Senate and House incumbent and new candidates a check on Clinton.  Which would seem to raise the issue of what policies she would propose that a majority of voters want checked.

Well, either that or what policies the Republican donors want checked.  And what policies they want to force as part of, say, the annual appropriations bill, including those quietly inserted during the night before the bill comes to a floor vote.

I’ve repeatedly argued here at AB, including here last week, that a fatal problem with Senate and House campaigns for Dems is that they think that “nationalizing” elections for Congress is something that works against rather than for Dems.  I’ve said that this is so only to the extent that Dems think triangulating on economic issues and running entirely on culture-wars issues—running a campaign that, to borrow from Mitt Romney, is an apology tour, albeit with such things as legitimate -rape matters thrown in.  And of course that extent has been pretty darn broad.  Until this cycle—at least to some extent.

But not to a large enough extent.  After Labor Day, Bernie Sanders will begin campaigning around the country, holding rallies not just in support of Clinton but also with—withsome Dem Senate and House candidates.  So this will change, I would think.

But as for the Clinton campaign itself, which has the creativity and guts of the chair I’m sitting in, I offer a suggestion: How about an ad featuring Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel in which they compare their financial gain or loss that of Robert and Rebeka Mercer under Trump’s plan and then under Clinton’s?  (Jeff Weaver, Bernie’s campaign manager, could put together something attention-grabbing, informative and funny; I know he could. And I’ve read that he’s now working informally with the DNC.)

Change? You say you want change, Rust Belters?*  Be careful what you wish for.  Or at least hope you don’t get it.

True change.  The lady promised true change.  She wasn’t kidding.

____

*Look, I’ve said roughly 800 times here (rounding out the figure) that Trump will not come close to winning Rust Belt blue-collar workers.  But it’s critically important also to turn both houses of Congress blue.

For roughly that same number—800 (rounding out the figure)—of reasons.

____

I’ll insert a couple more links, regarding Supreme Court opinions I describe here, tonight.  I don’t have time now, and I want to get this posted as early as possible. Because, well … I think it contains darned important information.

 

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The Last (Wildlife) Refuge of a Scoundrel

Tucked into the fiscal relief package for Puerto Rico this spring was a provision to give away a national treasure that belongs to all Americans — 3,100 acres of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. The proposal had nothing to do with the economic recovery of Puerto Rico. But it would have handed an important victory to extremists in Congress and state legislatures who want to grab national lands and turn them over to the states to be sold or leased. The measure to give Puerto Rico nearly one­-sixth of the island of federally protected coves, beaches and subtropical forests had the support of the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Representative Rob Bishop, Republican of Utah, who is a leading proponent of an agenda to dispose of America’s public lands.

Fortunately, Hispanic and conservation groups helped rouse opposition to the effort, and the provision was taken out of the bill.

But that was only one of several efforts in Congress and elsewhere to dismantle the nation’s system of more than 560 wildlife refuges and 38 wetlands totaling about 150 million acres of land and water. Opponents of federal land ownership also want to dispose of hundreds of millions of acres of forests and rangelands owned by the American people. If they succeed, not even the national parks will be safe.

The lawmakers behind these attacks are determined, as they put it, to “reduce the federal estate” and give these public lands to cash-­hungry states or territories, where they could be leased, drilled, logged or sold to the highest bidder.

Don’t Give Away Our Wildlife Refuges, Jamie Williams, op-ed, New York Times, today

I remember when, back during his 2012 presidential campaign Mitt Romney, speaking somewhere out west, suddenly (or so I thought) included a rant about the vast amount of land the federal government owns, and said he would propose that most of it be turned over to the states.  I believe he made clear that this included most, if not all, national parks.

I was stunned, but quickly learned in reading a couple of articles about Romney’s proposal—there were, best as I could tell, only a couple articles mentioning it—that this is a top item on the wish list of some west-of-the-Mississippi Republican mega-donors, who want to be able to buy the land on the cheap.

It’s also of course a key theme of Cliven Bundy-type ranchers, although Bundy himself and some of the other virulent ones don’t even recognize current federal ownership of the land.  And that’s not where the votes are, in the Electoral College, anyway.  And it’s not why Romney, who already had the Bundy-crowd vote, was saying this.  Publicly.  What Romney wanted was a sort of quid pro quo, and the votes of the donors themselves wasn’t what he was after.

But the few pundits who noted Romney’s statement and commented on it pointed out that although Romney apparently didn’t realize this, most Americans, unlike members of his family, can’t afford lakefront summer homes.  And some can’t afford to stay in resorts.  Nor buy their own leafy acreage in a former wildlife preserve or national park in order to have a place to put down a tent or park an RV.

Romney never mentioned it again.  But I wondered why Obama didn’t.

Well, actually, I knew why.  It’s the same reason that election year after election year, the Democratic candidates, for reelection or election to the Senate or the House don’t mention the things the Republican members of Congress have proposed, sometimes successfully, that are appalling policies dictated by their donors, and that the public does not know about: Apprising the public of these things isn’t on the list of recommendations their political consultants advise them to do.  If it’s not a culture-wars issue or something else that most of the public already knows about, it won’t be on any of their consultants’ list of things to mention.  And if it’s even slightly complex, or the Wall Street folks don’t want the Dems to talk about it, then it’s per se not on the list.

Especially—especially—if it means “nationalizing” the election by pointing out what actually will happen if the Republicans gain control or keep control of the Congress.  As opposed to what will happen if the Dems do.

What won the election for Obama in 2012 was a series of ads run in the spring of that year by a sort-of-independent super PAC that educated the public about what Romney actually did as a venture capitalist, coupled with the 47% videotape in the early fall.  But the spring super PAC ads were attacked by some establishment Dems, including Bill Clinton, and by a few centrist pundits with ties to Wall Street, as class warfare and as attacking capitalism.  And the issue was not “nationalized” for congressional elections, even though the Republican budgets and antiregulatory proposals and other proposed legislation—some of it slipped into an unrelated bill at the last minute, a constant in fact with that crowd—because as always, the Dem consultants were horrified at the prospect of a nationalized congressional election.

“As always” included the 2014 elections.  And best as I can tell, this year’s congressional elections, too.

I had envisioned Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren—the two highest-profile progressives—neither of whom is on the ballot this year, and therefore both who are free to do so, barnstorming the country in an effort to apprise voters of the really ugly things that the Republican Congress keeps trying to force via one or another trick, on behalf of the party’s establishment donors.  Including the divestment of federal lands of all sorts to Republican donors via pass-through to, and then from, the states—not only in and of itself but as lucid illustration of the extremes to which the Republican Party is a party of oligarchs.

A party.  Invitation only.  Admission is steep but well worth the price for invitees.  And that whatever else you can say about the Democrats, their donors aren’t trying to turn vast public lands into private preserves of the Republican donors’ industries.

Oh, the horror of nationalizing the congressional elections.  (If you’re a Republican oligarch, not if you’re, well, not.)

Sanders has been aggressively soliciting campaign contributions, via Act Blue, for certain progressive congressional candidates.  And a few days ago he began soliciting contributions for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, in an email with the subject, “Time to elect a Democratic Senate”, or some such.

But I think he and Warren have been held back somewhat by Clinton’s open, aggressive courting of high-profile Republicans.  And now, as of yesterday, her weird and awful selection of—good graceKen Salazar as her transition team head seems to like a deliberate slight to progressives.  Young voters, at least outside of Colorado, don’t know about him, so she thought this would be freebee, but given social networking, it may well not be.  But Sanders and Warren know about him.  How do you campaign for a progressive Congress to team up with, well, someone who thinks Ken Salazar should head her presidential transition team?

I don’t know who it is that has her ear and is so enamored of uber-triangulating Colorado pols, but it’s someone who thinks it’s still the 1990s. Okay, I do know.  Probably. It’s Bill Clinton—the same person, I’d wager, who told her to jump right on it in going after those Republican endorsements and those Republican donors.  No time to waste.  And no time was wasted.

Maureen Dowd, in a stunning column last Sunday perfectly titled “The Perfect G.O.P. Nominee,”, got pretty close to the heart of why Clinton is so widely viewed as untrustworthy.  And as long as she remains under her husband’s spell there will be no easing of that view.

I’ve repeatedly analogized Donald Trump and Paul Ryan to Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen, but both parties have nominated puppets as their presidential nominees.  I’ll certainly vote for Bill Clinton over Paul Ryan.

Although if Edgar Bergen’s name appears on my ballot, all bets are off.  I like transparency in presidential candidates.  And, who knows?  Maybe he likes the national parks system enough to mention its political endangerment while campaigning.

____

POSTSCRIPT:

In November, 2012, asked a question he did not like by a reporter for The Gazette of Colorado Springs regarding Salazar’s association with [a] hauler who shipped wild horses to slaughter plants, Salazar told the reporter, “If you do that to me again, I’ll punch you out”. Salazar later apologized.

Wikipedia

Great.  Also great:

US presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton has raised eyebrows with the hiring of Washington DC powerbroker and vocal Trans-Pacific Partnership supporter Ken Salazar.

Mr Salazar will head Ms Clinton’s White House transition team.

The appointment adds weight to speculation Ms Clinton, who became a TPP opponent when running for president, was a closet supporter of the proposed landmark pact between the US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and seven other Pacific Rim nations.

“The TPP is a strong trade deal that will level the playing field for workers to help middle-class families get ahead,” Mr Salazar, a former Colorado senator and interior secretary under President Barack Obama, co-wrote in a USA Today op-ed in November.

“It is also the greenest trade deal ever.” Ms Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump have both vowed to nix the TPP, a move that contrasts with Mr Obama’s pro-TPP stance. Ms Clinton’s vice president running mate Tim Kaine was also pro-TPP.

If Ms Clinton wins the November 8 presidential election, Mr Salazar will guide her in the months leading up to Mr Obama’s January exit from the White House. It is during that “lame duck” period Mr Obama has the best hope of pushing the TPP proposal through Congress.

Mr Salazar, who has worked at the influential Washington DC firm WilmerHale that has lobbied on trade policy, has also shown support for fracking and the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

“He is pro-Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), pro-fracking and pro-Keystone XL pipeline,” Molly Dorozenski, campaign director for Greenpeace Democracy, wrote.

“If Clinton plans to effectively tackle climate change, the last thing her team needs is a fossil fuel industry friend like Salazar.”

On a trip to Australia in 2012 as US secretary of state Ms Clinton declared in Adelaide the “TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade”.

Clinton supporters query pro-TPP hiring, Peter Mitchell, NZN US Correspondent – NZ Newswire, today

Dowd has it right.

Added 8/17 at 8:06 p.m.

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The Bizarre and Manipulative Crusade by Centrist NYT Columnists to Persuade Clinton to Adopt the Republican Fiscal and Regulatory Agenda – [with update]

All the experts tell us not to pay too much attention to polls for another week or two. Still, it does look as if Hillary Clinton got a big bounce from her convention, swamping her opponent’s bounce a week earlier. Better still, from the Democrats’ point of view, the swing in the polls appears to be doing what some of us thought it might: sending Donald Trump into a derp spiral, in which his ugly nonsense gets even uglier and more nonsensical as his electoral prospects sink.

As a result, we’re finally seeing some prominent Republicans not just refusing to endorse Mr. Trump, but actually declaring their support for Mrs. Clinton. So how should she respond?

The obvious answer, you might think, is that she should keep doing what she is doing — emphasizing how unfit her rival is for office, letting her allies point out her own qualifications and continuing to advocate a moderately center-­left policy agenda that is largely a continuation of President Obama’s.

But at least some commentators are calling on her to do something very different — to make a right turn, moving the Democratic agenda toward the preferences of those fleeing the sinking Republican ship. The idea, I guess, is to offer to create an American version of a European-­style grand coalition of the center­-left and the center-­right.

I don’t think there’s much prospect that Mrs. Clinton will actually do that. But if by any chance she and those around her are tempted to take this recommendation seriously: Don’t.

No Right Turn, Paul Krugman, New York Times, Aug. 5*

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Go, Michigan!

new Detroit News/WDIV-TV poll finds Clinton up nine points among likely voters in Michigan, 41-32. Note that the pollster says Clinton has a “shocking” lead in the GOP regions of the western and southwestern parts of the state.

But Trump told us he is going to put Michigan in play, because he’s doing so awesomely among working class whites, and also, he knows a lot about cars!

Could Clinton win over GOP voters? Yes — thanks to Trump’s unique awfulness., Greg Sargent, Washington Post, this morning

Sargent also notes a new poll from New Hampshire showing Clinton up by 15% and Maggie Hassan ahead of Kelly Ayotte by 10%.

And he points to a fresh poll from Pennsylvania that has Clinton up by 11%.

Ah, but Michigan.  Clinton leading in the western and southwestern parts of the state?  Awesome.  And btw, Bernie Sanders beat Clinton, big, in those parts of the state in the primary.

So sorry, Donald, but it’s just not working out.

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About That Optimism Thing …

Watching the Democrats’ smoothly staged, potently scripted convention last week, voters could easily think that Hillary Clinton has this election in the bag.

The critiques of Donald Trump made devastatingly clear that he’s a preposterous, dangerous candidate for the presidency. The case for Clinton was compelling, and almost every party leader who mattered showed up to make it.

That included President Obama, who answered Trump’s shockingly gloomy vision of America with a stirring assurance that we have every reason to feel good. Clinton forcefully amplified that assessment. She peddled uplift, not anxiety.

But in 2016, is that the smarter sell? Are prettier words the better pitch?

They made for a more emotional, inspiring convention, so much so that many conservatives loudly grieved the way in which Democrats had appropriated the rousing patriotism and can­do American spirit that Republicans once owned. But Trump has surrendered optimism to Clinton at precisely the moment when it’s a degraded commodity, out of sync with the national mood. That’s surely why he let go of it so readily.

Clinton has many advantages in this race. I wouldn’t bet against her. I expect a significant bounce for her in post­-convention polls; an Ipsos/Reuters survey that was released on Friday, reflecting interviews spread out over the Democrats’ four days in Philadelphia, showed her five points ahead of Trump nationally among likely voters.

But she nonetheless faces possible troubles, and the potential mismatch of her message and the moment is a biggie. She has to exploit the opportunity of Trump’s excessive bleakness without coming across as the least bit complacent. That’s no easy feat but it’s a necessary one. The numbers don’t lie.

The Trouble for Hillary, Frank Bruni, NYT, today

For a few weeks last winter, into the spring, I kept getting ads on my computer screen from the Clinton campaign asking that we “Tell Trump that America’s already great.”  I don’t think I ever failed to groan or roll my eyes at that ad.  It was vintage Clinton campaign—a campaign that struck me as never failing to go for the most obvious cliché or, worse, clichéd misinformation about Bernie Sanders’ policy proposals and statements.

They—certainly including Clinton herself—came off as campaign software algorithms.  True to form.

It would have been fine to specify things about America that are great.  Michelle Obama did that beautifully in her convention speech when she said she wakes up every morning in a home built by slaves, and followed that sentence or preceded it, if I recall, with a statement that America is great.

Her point being that a source of America’s greatness is ability to change in critically important and progressive ways.

And certainly Clinton makes the point, repeatedly, that America’s greatness is so largely because of its ethnic and racial mix, so much of it the result of immigration.

But Clinton undermines her chance to win the election when she just grabs the obvious slogan or generic retort rather than identifying specific areas in which we’re no longer so great: the near-complete end to the long era of social mobility; the downward mobility of many people; the near-complete end to the long era of shared economic gains, and the consequent spiraling, gaping inequality of wealth and of income; and the conversion of the political system from a largely democratic one to an entirely plutocratic one.

The policies in the party’s platform address these.  I wish Clinton had mentioned those problems and then said, simply, that the party’s platform and additional ideas from her campaign and from Dems in Congress—Warren, Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Dick Durbin, Jeff Merkley, although she wouldn’t have had to name them—address these and do show the way toward further greatness.

Only just a week ago it appeared that Clinton’s decision to agree to a party platform incorporating so many of Bernie Sanders’ ideas, entirely or in part, was mainly lip service.  Her campaign was sending clear signals of this, telling reporters that she was more interested in courting moderate Republicans than Sanders supporters, and suggesting that consequently triangulation would be more prevalent than progressiveness.

Her selection of Tim Kaine as her running mate signaled this, or seemed to anyway, and probably did all the way back 10 days ago.  And clearly the courting of moderate Republicans was Bill Clinton’s desired direction; he himself is effectively one these days, after all.  And his convention speech, to the extent that it suggested a policy direction, seemed to me to suggest that one.

But to the surprise of, I think, most political journalists and most progressives she appears instead to have flipped the script.  It’s the view now of several high-profile commentators that Clinton at the last moment decided break from her norm and do the opposite of what she was expected to do because it’s what she always does: She offered lip service to the triangulators and a seemingly sincere promise to progressives that on much of domestic policy she’s now, genuinely, with them.

I think they may be right.

What if Clinton suddenly had an epiphany and realized three key things?  One is that it is not just the Sanders supporters who almost all will vote for her no matter what because the alternative is appalling; it also is moderate Republicans who are likely to do so, almost irrespective of her policy positions.  Another is that this is so of the big pro-corporate, pro-Wall Street donors, the ones who lean Democratic and usually donate to Dems, and the ones who are moderate corporate Republicans.

The third one is that most of the Sanders-induced platform planks aren’t actually radical, and are likely to spur a new wave social mobility, reduction of poverty, and a profoundly needed narrowing of wealth and income gaps.  Making America great again, in other words.

And the planks are popular.

What Clinton may suddenly have realized, even if her husband has not, is that the Trump nomination accomplishes something no one thought possible: It effectively repeals Citizens United, if only for this one presidential election cycle. Clinton had assumed that she could take for granted progressives’ votes, because as a practical matter progressives have nowhere else to go.  But since the regular moderate Democratic mega-donors, and moderate Republican ones too, similarly have nowhere else to go—the rabbit hole isn’t an inviting possibility—Clinton need not actually promise them anything, really, at all.

She may or may not feel liberated.  But I’m sort of guessing that once this sinks in fully, she’ll feel not only liberated but elated.  This is, after all, the strangest of election cycles.  And that would be a very welcome bit of strangeness.

Bruni’s column goes on to illustrate, quite evocatively, the conflicting signals of Clinton’s campaign.  His point, which he makes in spades, is that that itself needs to stop, because it’s self-defeating.  But he comes down, clearly, on the side of warning against a campaign of continuity-with-a-bit-of-incrementalism.

Campaigning as a true progressive and really meaning it and putting her heart into it would mean cutting the political umbilical cord from her husband and so many of the Clintons’ tight circle.  But the political and, here’s betting, the emotional reward to her would more than compensate for the loss of those crutches.  She could truly become her own person, if that truly is who she now is.  And oddly enough, she, and we, would have Donald Trump, of all people, to thank.

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Brownshirts

The Clinton campaign has been strangely remiss in not publicizing the Trump campaign’s aggressive screening of journalists at Trump’s events—especially its denial of press credentials to several news media organizations, including the Washington Post and Politico.

But this report by Paul Farhi, the Washington Post’s media reporter, this morning, titled “Post reporter barred, patted down by police, at rally for Trump running mate,” but published in the Post’s Style section for whatever reason, is out of early 1930s Europe:

Donald Trump’s campaign has denied press credentials to a number of disfavored media organizations, including The Washington Post, but on Wednesday, the campaign of his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, went even further.

At Pence’s first public event since he was introduced as the Republican vice-presidential candidate two weeks ago, a Post reporter was barred from entering the venue after security staffers summoned local police to pat him down in a search for his cellphone.

Pence’s campaign expressed embarrassment and regret about the episode, which an official blamed on overzealous campaign volunteers.

Post reporter Jose A. DelReal sought to cover Pence’s rally at theWaukesha County Exposition Center outside Milwaukee, but he was turned down for a credential beforehand by volunteers at a press check-in table.

DelReal then tried to enter via the general-admission line, as Post reporters have done without incident since Trump last month banned the newspaper from his events. He was stopped there by a private security official who told him he couldn’t enter the building with his laptop and cellphone. When DelReal asked whether others attending the rally could enter with their cellphones, he said the unidentified official replied, “Not if they work for The Washington Post.”

Donald Trump’s running mate has been in public office since 2000, mostly in Congress, and is a favorite among social conservatives.

After placing his computer and phone in his car, DelReal returned to the line and was detained again by security personnel, who summoned two county sheriff’s deputies. The officers patted down DelReal’s legs and torso, seeking his phone, the reporter said.

When the officers — whom DelReal identified as Deputy John Lappley and Capt. Michelle Larsuel — verified that he wasn’t carrying a phone, the reporter asked to be admitted. The security person declined. “He said, ‘I don’t want you here. You have to go,’ ” DelReal said.

The security person wouldn’t give his name when DelReal asked him to identify himself. He also denied DelReal’s request to speak to a campaign press representative as he escorted the journalist out.

Officials of the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department were unavailable for comment Wednesday night.

Trump has banned nearly a dozen news organizations whose coverage has displeased him, but reporters have generally been able to cover his events by going through general admission lines.

The incident involving DelReal marks another in a series of run-ins between the news media and the campaign.

In June, Politico reporter Ben Schreckinger was ejected from a Trump event in San Jose by a campaign staffer and a private security guard after he tried to cover the rally without the campaign’s permission. In February, a photojournalist from Time magazine, Christopher Morris,was roughed up by a Secret Service agent as journalists rushed to cover a protest at one of his rallies. And Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, yanked and bruised the arm of a reporter for Breitbart News, Michelle Fields, when she tried to question Trump after a speech in March.

DelReal’s experience on Wednesday elicited a rebuke from Post Executive Editor Martin Baron.

“First, press credentials for The Washington Post were revoked by Donald Trump,” he said. “Now, law enforcement officers, in collusion with private security officials, subjected a reporter to bullying treatment that no ordinary citizen has to endure. All of this took place in a public facility no less. The harassment of an independent press isn’t coming to an end. It’s getting worse.”

Officials from the Pence campaign initially said they were unaware of the Waukesha incident when asked for comment Wednesday night. But after a cursory investigation, one official, who declined to speak on the record, said that no members of the campaign’s staff were involved. He said volunteers went too far.

“It sounds like they misinterpreted what they were supposed to be doing,” the official said. “This is not our policy.”

In a statement, Pence press secretary Marc Lotter said, “Our events are open to everyone, and we are looking into the alleged incident.”

“It sounds like they misinterpreted what they were supposed to be doing,” the official said? “This is not our policy?”

Some of them were doing what they were supposed to be doing—the volunteers at the press check-in table, for example.  Others surely knew that they were doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing, because they are public law enforcement officials, yet they did it anyway.

And then there is that middle category—the private security people—whose interpretation of what they were supposed to be doing wasn’t mere happenstance.

I don’t know who other than Clinton and her daughter will be speaking tonight in the primetime hours.  But I sure hope this night, with so many millions of people watching, will tell the public about this.  Even maybe someone who isn’t scheduled to speak tonight, and who could just take the stage to do that and only that.

My preference would be Bernie Sanders.  Or Elizabeth Warren.  But really, almost anyone could do it effectively.  It would take only about five minutes—and could be profoundly informative to so many people who don’t know about this.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but Bernie would be particularly effective, given his father’s family’s losses in the Holocaust.  And Elizabeth Warren would be because she could note, with some authority notwithstanding that although a former Harvard law professor she did not teach constitutional law, that what we undoubtedly are looking at if Trump is elected is a series of profound constitutional crises.

This is stunningly important stuff, folks.

____

UPDATE: Can’t decide whether this is equally important, but it isn’t stunning.  In the least.

Then again, New Jersey isn’t all that far from Virginia.  And they both have to worry about hurricanes during the hurricane season!

Okay, I won’t make you click that link.  Trump said on Twitter last night that Tim Kaine was a lousy governor of New Jersey.  I presume Trump’s complaint is that Kaine didn’t show up much for work there.

Added 7/28 at 11:24 a.m.

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What Bill and Hillary Clinton Don’t Get: That the way to win Rust Belt white blue-collar voters isn’t to go centrist; it’s to go economic populist.

The changes to the platform testify to the strength of the Sanders campaign, and, like that campaign, they are a sign that the dynamism within the party arises right now from its left­wing faction, led by politicians like Mr. Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

What is less clear is if Mrs. Clinton is aiming to dispel that momentum with some gestures, including a few planks in a platform, or if she intends to actually lead the Democrats in the direction demanded by Mr. Sanders — a direction that would mean a radical redefinition of what was once understood to be Clintonism.

Hillary Clinton’s New Democrats, the NYT editorial board, yesterday

One thing that puzzles me is the anger among so many pundits that the Sanders supporters who still protest and won’t vote for Clinton are doing so because Sanders didn’t get everything he wanted in the platform.  These pundits are offended that there remain such vocal holdouts notwithstanding the extensive concessions to Sanders that were made.

But as I mentioned earlier this week and as the NYT editorial board understands, for (I believe) most Sanders supporters—those who, like me, will vote for Clinton, and those who will not—the critical issue is whether she intends to renege on her current support of those platform concessions, in the remainder of the campaign and then, if elected, as president.

One line late in Bill Clinton’s speech concerned me.  I don’t remember the precise phrasing, but it suggested that voters should vote for Hillary Clinton because her policy proposals are affordable and possible to get through Congress.  The line, in borrowing Hillary Clinton’s selling point on her policies over Sanders’ throughout the primary campaign except suddenly just before the California primary, struck me as a dog whistle to, I guess, moderate Republicans that it’s the proposals she campaigned on, not the ones in the platform, that she plans to offer and push.

Washington Post columnist and blogger Dana Milbank, a Clinton supporter all the way and one who throughout the summer, fall and early winter trashed Sanders’ proposals as utterly unrealistic, surprised me by writing (I guess) Monday afternoon, in a lengthy post titled “Clinton leaves Democrats’ liberal wing high and dry”:

That the Sanders supporters were frustrated is understandable. Clinton and the Democratic Party have given the progressive wing of the party short shrift in favor of an appeal to the political center. …

Clinton, after securing Sanders’s endorsement, chose as her running mate Virginian Tim Kaine, who has a centrist reputation and has been a free-trader.

Then there was the leak of DNC emails, which proved what Sanders had long alleged: The party was working to help Clinton defeat him. Democratic National Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was ousted after the email revelations, but Clinton promptly named her an “honorary chair” of her campaign.

From a strategic perspective, this is probably a mistake. Clinton’s playing down of the progressives in Philadelphia comes from a belief that she can do better among the non-college-educated whites who have been the core of Trump’s support. But her deficit among non-college-educated white voters, about 30 points, isn’t much worse than President Obama and John Kerry did. Rather than making overtures to the shrinking ranks of blue-collar white voters (just over 30 percent of the electorate, down from half in the 1980s) who aren’t likely to be persuaded, Clinton could have used her vice-presidential selection and her convention to boost enthusiasm among progressives.

I certainly agree with Milbank that this probably is a mistake, but for an additional reason as well as the numeric one he cites.  The substantial number of white blue-collar workers in the upper Midwest and northeast who support Trump not because of his Build the Wall and bar-Muslims promises but instead for the strictly economic-populist reasons that Trump uses as bait.  Some of these voters voted for Sanders in the primaries and caucuses.

Hillary Clinton should remember that taxes and net wages aren’t the only thing that matters to people’s bottom line—her repeated claims to the contrary during the primary season in challenging Sanders’s proposals notwithstanding.  Suffice it to say that healthcare deductibles and co-payments and healthcare insurance premiums, whether deducted from wages or salary or paid independently, are for many, many millions of people not affordable. If she does not understand that, she truly is out-of-touch.  Same for college affordability.  Etc.

The Clintons reflexively reach for centrism as their crutch.  Always.  But they appear unaware that the very definition of centrism has changed within the last year and a half.  As someone who views their electoral success as a personal existential necessity, I wish Clinton would consider this.

Meanwhile, Greg Sargent reports this morning that during an interview of Trump this morning Bill O’Reilly said there “has to be” a federal minimum wage. And then Trump said this:

There doesn’t have to be. I would leave it and raise it somewhat. You need to help people. I know it’s not very Republican to say…I would say 10….But with the understanding that somebody like me is going to bring back jobs. I don’t want people to be in that $10 category for very long. But the thing is, Bill, let the states make the deal.”  (Italics Sargent’s.)

Sargent added:

So basically, Trump flip-flopped and then back-flipped, holding three different positions in succession. The real story here is that Trump has no actual position on the minimum wage. His whole candidacy is a scam.

To me it looks less like a flip-flop than that Trump actually doesn’t recognize that the two are mutually exclusive.  The states can’t legislate—Make the deal? With whom?—a lower minimum wage than the federal minimum wage, since it’s not a federal minimum wage if states don’t have to adhere to it.

So maybe all Clinton has to do in order to win white blue-collar votes in the Rust Belt is quote that quote there.  Most blue-collar voters in the Rust Belt know that a federal minimum wage is, y’know, a federal minimum wage.  And that states can’t make a deal on that.

Trust me on this; they know.

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